In a press conference that basically resembled running back into the house to put on lip gloss before going back out on the way to the club, Michigan announced that Athletic Director Dave Brandon was out today by virtue of a resignation.
Though Michigan’s public affairs group will put the stamp on the rather boring details of how it went down, Michigan’s fan base can now begin whatever healing process comes with the total denigration of morale and support over the last year and a half that — either completely right, completely wrong, or somewhere in between — gets placed on Brandon’s doorstep.
The only thing mildly surprising about this was the timing, one day before homecoming against Indiana. It’s a (tentative until the details are released) coup for president Mark Schlissel and Michigan to get Brandon to resign. The sweetheart deal Brandon received from outgoing president Mary Sue Coleman if he were to be removed meant that Brandon, a man of considerable financial thinking, would be insane to ever agree to a resignation come hell or high water.
Therefore, it was either drum up the financial means behind the scenes to weather the hit it would take to remove Brandon against his will, or get him to resign.
Brandon’s best play was to be forced out, and he knew that. The problem ends up being the e-mail issue from this past weekend, which eroded any final support Brandon had within the athletic department. It was one of those deals where you walk into your boss’s office and have no justification for it.
Brandon had a fixed amount of time to come to a conclusion, and this was probably the right route to go.
To this point, Brandon always could answer to the Michigan brass that wins, losses, and fan support be damned, Michigan was making money backside over tea kettle while Brandon was there, and in the end, that’s his job. Now, a year from now, the numbers might look different, but arguing in hypotheticals is something of sitting on a chair with three legs.
The e-mails, though, those were damning. When your boss asks you why you’re sending out e-mails deep into the night telling fans to quit “drinking and go to bed,” or passive aggressively insulting a fan’s wife, there’s not much retort you can have no matter how much loot you’re bringing in. Credit to MGoBlog on unearthing and releasing that one.
The customer is always right, even when it isn’t, but groups of customers are always right and they’re always right a lot more forcefully than just the one customer. And the groups of customers have designated that Brandon needed to go if any swath of support was to remain.
This was in the works weeks ago, to be quite frank, but it came to a head abruptly this week. Brandon did the right thing resigning, assuming he did so with some sort of financial return rather than look like he was holding onto grim death for the sake of self-pride.
While Brandon did many great things for the athletes and the athletic department at Michigan, his greatest shortcomings were that of wedging an either realistic or perceived divide between the fan base and the athletic department.
Basically, students/supporters/fans wanted Brandon gone long before anything about wins and losses crept into the discussion.
Brandon’s financial gains at Michigan were immense considering how pissed off the fan base was. His financial savvy has always been somewhat of myth or at least bloated reality, however. After leaving Domino’s Pizza as CEO for the post at Michigan, the company’s stock rose a staggering 737 percent over the four years. That isn’t necessarily a slap in the face to Brandon individually, but sort of dispels the myth that he’s some sort of financial company building demi-god.
Part of it probably can be attributed to the decision Brandon made at Domino’s to change the pizza formula to take away from negative opinion about the taste of the brand, plus a tanking economy that saw pretty much everything fall for a period of time. However, it’s hard to know whether the devil is in the details of the ingredients or if it was something deeper that made the company rise after he left.
Former Steelcase CEO and Dave Brandon football teammate Jim Hackett will take over as Michigan’s interim athletic director. Schlissel didn’t rule out anything for the next man to stand in the post, other than that he will possess “excellence.”
Schlissel isn’t a sports guy by nature, but he clearly gets the pulse of what courses through the veins of the university he now runs.
Most assuredly, Schlissel has an idea who he’s going to hire. That’s normally the way these things go. You know before the interview even happens. For my money, it’ll be Brad Bates at Boston College or Warde Manuel at Connecticut, but at this point probably 4 to 5 people in total know the answer to that, and I’m not one of them.
The same goes with now ultra-twisting-in-the-wind football coach Brady Hoke. While on the surface it may be backhanded to search for a coach while you still have one, be assured of this: the vetting process has probably begun and is near conclusion.
When it comes to these things, the media breaks the story about a month or so after it actually has been sealed. Coaches don’t get hired and then go text their favorite media personality about it. While it may seem callous to go out and look at other coaches whilst you still have one, is the alternative better?
I’m sure Brady Hoke would rather finish out this year, coach another version of The Game, and be removed in December as his job is privately up for market while he’s still technically in the job. That’s much better than to be removed mid-season and lose out on those moments with the seniors and all of the kids he’s recruited to this point.
Whoever steps into the athletic director position will have the enviable job situation of the guy entering into a relationship with a gal that has felt cheated on, disrespected, and basically thinking you’re the greatest if you simply pick up the check for dinner.
Michigan is going in a direction that had to be followed, no matter how painful or financially brutal it might be. Brandon did elite things for the athletics department at Michigan, which was his job, but the shrapnel of pissing off the fan base did him in, along with the inexplicable decline of the football program from a wins and losses standpoint when smoke was out there that it could have been better had he not hired his buddy.
There will be many rumors, flight tracking and all of the ancillary insanity that goes along with fans and big openings these days. People will be surprised how it all ends, and Michigan will enter a new era, with a full stash of hope arrows firmly in the quiver.
It’s a new day in Ann Arbor. Just wait until you see what happens from here …